Resources: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania

Fair School Funding

  • The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, Public Interest Law Center, and the law firm O’Melveny have joined together to file a lawsuit on behalf of school districts, parents, and two statewide organizations against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the governor. We are asking for a court order that will force the legislature to comply with the state constitution and ensure that all students receive access to a high-quality public education. The case is scheduled to go to trial in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in October 2021. Here are answers to common questions about the case.

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  • In a statement on the Pennsylvania budget, ELC welcomes the news from the General Assembly that state funding for basic education, special education, and pre-K in the coming school year will not be reduced from current levels, despite the dropoff in state revenues. Schools are already facing substantial decreases in revenue from local sources due to the economic downturn – as well as added costs associated with COVID-19 and the shift to remote learning. The state must promptly find ways to provide additional support to the struggling, underfunded school districts whose students have been hardest hit by this crisis. Read the full statement here.

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  • This October 2018 report from the Education Law Center highlights how the rise in special education costs in districts across the state is outpacing state special education funding, creating new challenges for underfunded school districts.

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    See the district-level special education funding data

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  • December 11, 2015: Pennsylvania’s public school funding crisis cannot be resolved by legislating new costs that will eventually exceed new revenues. Unfortunately, the School Code bill recently passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and under consideration in the House of Representatives would do just that. Revenues provided under a bipartisan budget deal would be swallowed up by the new costs associated with rapid charter school expansion. Statewide, charter schools would be permitted to open new buildings, add new grades, and expand their enrollment with almost no limitations. In Philadelphia, where the district is already under state control and over a third of students already attend charter schools, the legislation would place numerous schools under a different state operator, this time the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and convert many of them into charter schools – all still without ensuring those schools have adequate funding.

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  • Education Law Center Staff Attorney David Lapp’s May 13, 2015 letter to the Senate Education Committee considers the benefits and drawbacks of legislation that would create a new state-operated, statewide “Achievement School District” in Pennsylvania.

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s Feb. 18, 2015 testimony to the School Reform Commission of Philadelphia examines the legal precedents for considering the fiscal stability of a school district when reviewing charter school applications.

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s March 7, 2014 testimony at the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s hearing highlights significant demographic disparities when comparing brick-and-mortar charter schools as a whole in Philadelphia to the School District of Philadelphia schools.

    (more…)

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  • The Special Education Funding Commission held public hearings throughout the state in 2013, receiving testimony from dozens of witnesses. Students, parents, educators, and national experts uniformly emphasized the long-term impact of the state funding system on the ability of schools to meet the needs of children with disabilities.

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  • Most of the law on school funding in Pennsylvania is found in the annual state budget, which is adopted by the General Assembly around June 30th of each year for the next fiscal year (which begins July 1).

     

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  • An ELC Fact Sheet published in November 2011 detailing the history of public school funding approaches in Pennsylvania.

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  • The graphs in this analysis were created by the Education Law Center using publicly reported data on public school enrollment demographics. We focused on Pennsylvania’s most heavily-chartered communities — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chester-Upland, York City, and Erie City — and on students receiving special education services.

    The data demonstrates that, while a number of individual charter schools equitably serve all students, the charter school sector taken as a whole generally underserves these vulnerable student populations. The result is that, with some notable exceptions, these students are often more heavily concentrated in the authorizing school district of residence.

     

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  • Pennsylvania is a national outlier when it comes to following basic budgeting principles — accuracy, fairness, and transparency — that most states use when it comes to public school funding, according to a 2013 report from the Education Law Center.

    The statewide, non-profit organization examined how each of the 50 states calculates and distributes education dollars. The report shows that Pennsylvania is in the minority when it comes to basic budgeting practices used by most states.

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  • ELC’s November 2012 testimony to the Pennsylvania Department of Education on eight cyber charter school applications.

    An excerpt: “The academic performance of the existing cyber charter schools raises serious questions about the ability of such programs to enable students to meet Pennsylvania’s academic standards and this performance should give the Department great pause before authorizing any additional cyber charters.”

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  • The Law Center believes that important reforms are needed for Pennsylvania’s system of charter schools. However, it is important to note that the legislative process for charter school reform has headed down the wrong path.

    (The following analysis highlights proposed changes to the law. These changes were not adopted in 2012 or 2013, but many of them are contained in current charter law proposals before the legislature.)

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  • According to the research findings, students who have access to a quality school library program have an academic advantage over students who did not have such access. This 2012 report, produced by the Education Law Center and the Pennsylvania Association of School Librarians, shows these academic differences are not explained away by the socio-economic, racial/ethnic, or disability status of the students. In fact, the research shows that all students with access to a full-time, certified librarians have higher PSSA Reading and Writing scores than students without that access.

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  • Charter schools are public schools and must follow laws that protect the rights of public school students. Ensuring that charter schools, as well as traditional public schools, provide quality education to all students is an important part of ELC’s mission.

    The following principles, published in 2012, are an outgrowth of ELC’s work with and on behalf of thousands of families throughout Pennsylvania.

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  • Strong public schools are important for creating a successful future for both individuals and whole communities. Formula proposals or state budgets affecting education funding should be evaluated based on the following ten criteria. Any proposal or budget that fails to meet these criteria will not serve the interests of all students, especially disadvantaged students, and should not be adopted.

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  • Investing in public eduation initiatives, from quality pre-kindergarten programs to lowering class size in elementary schools, pays big dividends for the state’s economic and social welfare, according to a report from Penn State University Professor Dana Mitra.

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  • The 2009 report, Costing Out the Resources Needed to Meet Pennsylvania’s Education Goals for Students with Disabilities, identifies and evaluates Special Education solutions based on Pennsylvania’s 2007 Education Cost Study and examines why it is critically important for the state to implement a funding system for students with disabilities.

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Pennsylvania

Equal Access

  • In a statement on the Pennsylvania budget, ELC welcomes the news from the General Assembly that state funding for basic education, special education, and pre-K in the coming school year will not be reduced from current levels, despite the dropoff in state revenues. Schools are already facing substantial decreases in revenue from local sources due to the economic downturn – as well as added costs associated with COVID-19 and the shift to remote learning. The state must promptly find ways to provide additional support to the struggling, underfunded school districts whose students have been hardest hit by this crisis. Read the full statement here.

    Download PDF

  • The Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center have developed a fact sheet to explain important educational decision maker rules, including Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court Procedural Rules (Rules 1147 and 147) requiring judges to appoint an “Educational Decision Maker” for children who have no parent or guardian to make education decisions for them, or when a court concludes that appointing an EDM is in the best interest of a child.

    In addition, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school districts have a duty to appoint a “surrogate parent” for children with special education needs under specific circumstances.

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  • A 2014 ELC Fact Sheet providing legal guidance and resource links for questions about opting out of PSSA and Keystone Exams.

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  • This collection of “tools” is intended to help parents and providers ensure school success for children and youth (ages 3-21) in Pennsylvania who are experiencing homelessness. The toolkit provides information about important laws and explains legal rights and how to use them.

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  • This guide provides clearly explained legal rules for special education and early intervention programs in Pennsylvania for children from ages three to 21. 

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s March 7, 2014 testimony at the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s hearing highlights significant demographic disparities when comparing brick-and-mortar charter schools as a whole in Philadelphia to the School District of Philadelphia schools.

    (more…)

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  • Youth who are experiencing homelessness have special rights under a federal law called the McKinney-Vento Act. This fact sheet provides detailed information and resources for youth experiencing homelessness regarding their education rights under that federal law. A sample complaint form is provided.

     

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  • This step-by-step fact sheet can help older youth enroll themselves in school quickly. It also provides contact information and the necessary forms for school enrollment.

     

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  • The graphs in this analysis were created by the Education Law Center using publicly reported data on public school enrollment demographics. We focused on Pennsylvania’s most heavily-chartered communities — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chester-Upland, York City, and Erie City — and on students receiving special education services.

    The data demonstrates that, while a number of individual charter schools equitably serve all students, the charter school sector taken as a whole generally underserves these vulnerable student populations. The result is that, with some notable exceptions, these students are often more heavily concentrated in the authorizing school district of residence.

     

    Download PDF

  • A 2013 training developed by the Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center in order to assist local education agencies in their appointment of surrogate parents.

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  • ELC’s November 2012 testimony to the Pennsylvania Department of Education on eight cyber charter school applications.

    An excerpt: “The academic performance of the existing cyber charter schools raises serious questions about the ability of such programs to enable students to meet Pennsylvania’s academic standards and this performance should give the Department great pause before authorizing any additional cyber charters.”

    Download PDF

  • The Law Center believes that important reforms are needed for Pennsylvania’s system of charter schools. However, it is important to note that the legislative process for charter school reform has headed down the wrong path.

    (The following analysis highlights proposed changes to the law. These changes were not adopted in 2012 or 2013, but many of them are contained in current charter law proposals before the legislature.)

    Download PDF

  • According to the research findings, students who have access to a quality school library program have an academic advantage over students who did not have such access. This 2012 report, produced by the Education Law Center and the Pennsylvania Association of School Librarians, shows these academic differences are not explained away by the socio-economic, racial/ethnic, or disability status of the students. In fact, the research shows that all students with access to a full-time, certified librarians have higher PSSA Reading and Writing scores than students without that access.

    Download PDF

  • Charter schools are public schools and must follow laws that protect the rights of public school students. Ensuring that charter schools, as well as traditional public schools, provide quality education to all students is an important part of ELC’s mission.

    The following principles, published in 2012, are an outgrowth of ELC’s work with and on behalf of thousands of families throughout Pennsylvania.

    Download PDF

  • The Education Law Center is pleased to announce the publication of the second edition of A Family Guide to Inclusive Early Childhood Learning in Pennsylvania. This project has been supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council.

    This guide is designed to be a quick and easy resource to inclusive early childhood learning programs in Pennsylvania for parents of children with developmental delays or disabilities.

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  • Children who are homeless have special rights which are guaranteed by a federal law called the McKinney-Vento Act. They can usually stay in the same school if they move, they can start school without records, and more.

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  • Enrolling a child who is not experiencing homelessness or is in foster care: If a child is living with you and you are not with their parent, they have the right to attend school where you live if certain conditions are met.  Most schools have their own form to determine whether the child living with you is eligible to enroll in the school catchment where you reside. Check with the school first to see if they have a specific form they want you to use. If not, you may be able to use this form to establish that the child living with you is eligible to enroll in the school catchment where you reside. Your school district’s form will be similar to this.  Regardless of whether you use the schools form or the sample form above, the document you will complete is an affidavit (sworn statement), which means that you are certifying that all information you provide on the form is correct. NOTE: You can face legal penalties if you knowingly complete an affidavit form using false information to enroll a child into school.

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  • In 2009, Stoneleigh Foundation Junior Fellow Arley Styer joined with the Education Law Center to explore the educational experiences of children placed in Pennsylvania group homes and residential treatment facilities. These children, many of whom tend to suffer from behavior disorders, often encounter educational barriers such as lack of needed special education services or too few hours of schooling while in placement.

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  • A 2010 training for childcare professionals and school district personnel on how to improve education outcomes for students experiencing homelessness.

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  • In this March 2010 report, ELC proposes legal and policy changes that will ensure that alternative programs are adequately supported and monitored; that their services are consistently comparable to those offered to other Pennsylvania students; that students are placed in these programs only when their needs justify the assignment; that the programs operate in a manner that is consistent with applicable federal and state laws; and that, in a number of other respects, programs meet the high standards that the state has set for all of Pennsylvania’s public education programs – and justify the taxpayers’ investment of funds.

     

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  • This 2009 ELC handbook for attorneys and advocates who represent students examines the law on school discipline in Pennsylvania, which derives from the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions; federal and state statutes, regulations, and case law; and policies of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, school districts, and individual schools.

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  • Youth who are adjudicated delinquent frequently encounter problems in obtaining appropriate education services in placement, as well as when they are released and reintegrated into their communities. This 2009 Toolkit from the Education Law Center provides the basic information and resources needed to help juvenile probation officers and other juvenile justice professionals overcome these problems.

    Download PDF

  • A cyber charter school is a public charter school that provides most of its instruction to its students through the Internet or by some other electronic means. Students who are enrolled in a cyber charter school do most of their schoolwork at home over the computer — they do not go to classes in a school building.

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  • In Pennsylvania, children between the ages of eight and seventeen must attend school. Educating a child at home is one way to comply with compulsory school attendance laws. This fact sheet provides information on homeschooling guidelines in Pennsylvania.

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Pennsylvania

School to Prison Pipeline

  • Act 26 is a Pennsylvania law which requires the expulsion for at least one year of any student who possesses a weapon on school property, at a school function, or going to and from school.  Many students have faced expulsion as a result of this law. Review the complete fact sheet for more information.

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  • The Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center have developed a fact sheet to explain important educational decision maker rules, including Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court Procedural Rules (Rules 1147 and 147) requiring judges to appoint an “Educational Decision Maker” for children who have no parent or guardian to make education decisions for them, or when a court concludes that appointing an EDM is in the best interest of a child.

    In addition, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school districts have a duty to appoint a “surrogate parent” for children with special education needs under specific circumstances.

    Download PDF

  • This 2010 ELC research brief provides a detailed examination of School-Wide Positive Behavior Support (PBS), a research-based, highly effective, approach to creating, teaching, and reinforcing students’ social, emotional, and academic learning skills that improves and sustains academic achievement and mental and emotional wellbeing of all students.

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  • Una hoja informativa que proporciona información a los padres y tutores sobre las normas y procedimientos para la expulsión de los estudiantes de las escuelas del distrito escolar y las escuelas charter.

    Aunque que las escuelas públicas tienen amplia libertad para crear reglas, deben seguir sus propias reglas. Por lo tanto, una escuela sólo puede expulsar a un estudiante por una violación de una regla de la escuela, si la escuela la ha adoptado oficialmente y distribuido la regla. Las reglas escolares deben estar inscritos en el Código de Conducta del Estudiante y debe ser publicado y distribuido a todos los estudiantes y padres de familia.

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  • A fact sheet providing information for parents and guardians on the rules and procedures for student expulsions from school district and charter schools.

    While public schools have wide latitude to create rules, they must follow their own rules. Thus, a school can only expel a student for a violation of a school rule if the school has officially adopted and distributed the rule. School rules should be listed in a published Code of Student Conduct that should be given to all students and parents.

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  • In the nine years since Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), startling growth has occurred in what is often described as the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” – the use of educational policies and practices that have the effect of pushing students, especially students of color and students with disabilities, out of schools and toward the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

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  • In this March 2010 report, ELC proposes legal and policy changes that will ensure that alternative programs are adequately supported and monitored; that their services are consistently comparable to those offered to other Pennsylvania students; that students are placed in these programs only when their needs justify the assignment; that the programs operate in a manner that is consistent with applicable federal and state laws; and that, in a number of other respects, programs meet the high standards that the state has set for all of Pennsylvania’s public education programs – and justify the taxpayers’ investment of funds.

     

    Download PDF

  • This 2009 ELC handbook for attorneys and advocates who represent students examines the law on school discipline in Pennsylvania, which derives from the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions; federal and state statutes, regulations, and case law; and policies of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, school districts, and individual schools.

    Download PDF

  • This July 2009 Basic Education Circular (BEC) provides guidance regarding placement of students in Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth (AEDY) Programs. It also provides guidance on AEDY program requirements to ensure that students in these programs are provided appropriate academic and behavioral support services.

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  • Youth who are adjudicated delinquent frequently encounter problems in obtaining appropriate education services in placement, as well as when they are released and reintegrated into their communities. This 2009 Toolkit from the Education Law Center provides the basic information and resources needed to help juvenile probation officers and other juvenile justice professionals overcome these problems.

    Download PDF